Thursday, December 11, 2008

27 Miles of Gas in The Veins

I like this t-shirt. On most every ride it does feel like heaven to be out there riding like hell. But some rides . . . well they're just hell from start to finish.
*Rant On*
"In their veins gas flowed, but in mine only blood flowed."
I burst my lungs and crushed my legs while I busted (hoping it trimmed?) my butt this morning giving it my all to catch up with the Wolf Pack. Right from the get-go I was BOP (Back Of Pack). Didn't even make the turn onto Greensburg Road a mere four tenths of a mile from the starting gate and I knew it was going to be a struggle of a cold weather ride. The group dropped me like I was something that had fallen off a tall building. What gives? Just yesterday I was riding in a driving rain for twenty three miles and I was right there hanging in and even taking turns with the pull. The three of us were not going a snail's pace either, we were moving. The brisk 12 mph headwind didn't really slow us one bit. The chilly rain was only a minor distraction. I was dressed for the wet and was warm. Even with all the extra clothes which surely sets up more resistance, I was keeping up.

This morning Accuweather showed it was going to be warmer at the start; 31 degrees, no rain, no snow, and half the wind of yesterday blowing in at about 6 mph. So I dressed a tad lighter today. Only three layers on top - my Craft zip-T, a short sleeve Smartwool zip-T, and my windproof Gore Wear Phantom jacket. For the first time in cold weather season even skipped the packs of Toastie's hand warmers in my gloves. I wore two layers of gloves. First few miles I had the usual numbness/cold in the fingers, but by four miles the blood was into the fingers and that was no longer a distraction. As I drove to the ride start I was thinking I had a fighting chance to get to ride with a little group.

I pretty much knew who would be showing up. It's very cold these days, and I thought it would be just like yesterday, and we would stay together. Things just looked better overall from yesterday. No rain, tad warmer, decent route over-all. - meaning not too many climbs for long stretches.

When I didn't make the turn onto Mayfair Road the last rider in the pack was holding up. The other four in the lead were like shots out of rockets. I just don't get it. How come these people are riding even FASTER in this cold weather? I said something about that to one of these riders a few weeks ago. Said something like, "Seems like a lot of you are riding really fast in this cold weather." The response was, "We all ride slower this time of year." Well you cannot prove that by me! No, honestly they are riding faster than ever!

I'm coming around the turn onto Mayfair and my fingers are frickn' cold. This is a distraction for me. Instead of being able to fully concentrate on moving forward my mind is on these freezing digits. At this point I was sorry I didn't wear mitts with a HotHands pack dropped in. My only hope was that soon there would be some blood getting to the fingers and they would warm up. Thank God that happened about four miles into the route.

The rider who saw me falling back pulled in to a drive-way, stopped, and was fending a clothing adjustment. Yeah, right. He would have been able to start up again, ride off in a flash, and catch right back up with the Wolf Pack. I pedal on past him and he slips in behind me. Now I'm really nervous. This rider was just doing this so I wouldn't be by myself. I should appreciate that, but it made me nervous because now I feel I have to push harder than ever, not let up my pace one iota. I don't want him to feel he is enduring a boring ride with this slow rider. I did not slow up to do a little chit-chatting, because then that would really slow everything down. I start talking, and the pace just naturally eases up. From somewhere I had a surge of energy - my legs were about this time getting loosened up so I could pick up the tempo. How come the Wolf Pack's legs were warmed up and turning the cranks like they were jet-fueled the minute they got on their bikes? It's not fair. I'm going to blame it on my age, too much clothing, exercised induced asthma, and closed restrooms. Huge distractions and discomfort to be riding with the bladder not completely empty! The restrooms are closed there this time of year.

So here I am a little ways in front of him and he lets me kind of pull for the next 25 miles. Every downhill I would push and pull on those cranks with everything I had, never letting up. And coming up some of the hills I was for most of them holding a satisfying clip. Still, the Wolf Pack was out of sight. I was hoping that we wouldn't get caught at any traffic lights, or delayed at any cross streets at the stop signs to wait for traffic. I was hoping that the Wolf Pack hit every traffic light and got slowed up by traffic at every stop sign! All of us must have hit those obstacles in sync, because I never approached a signal and saw them - until - mile nineteen. They were pulling away from a traffic light. The competitive juices were ignited and started to flow and I tried so hard to try and reach their tails. I just wanted to be part of their group, to ride with them, to draft along with them. I wonder if they saw me back there? Did it occur to slow up just a wee little bit so I could catch up? No, because I know what it is like to be riding 'up ahead'. When was the last time anyway? And here's the thing. You have this nice momentum going, you are rolling along and your speed is constant, you are in this neat, exhilarating groove and it takes a lot to give that up, even for three or four minutes that it would mean for the one within sight behind you to catch up. I admit it is hard to give that momentum up when I'm riding in a little group.

But I was closing in. Dang! The hill on Cottage Grove bent skyward and my automatic transmission dropped down a gear. I saw them rounding on to Christman. My riding buddy who was still sheparding me close behind makes the turn with me. I slow up and say, "I give up!" " I thought I had a good chance of catching them." He came out in front of me and hammered it -- it was hard to keep up, I'd spent so much of myself trying to reach the lead group, that now I was ready to just give up the whole idea. But I gave what I could to stick in behind him as close as I could. It was hard. He really pulled us both in close to the flyers. Finally after the hills on Main street and left onto Mt Pleasant the leaders were pausing at the stop sign at Arlington. I do believe they saw us coming up and actually decided to take mercy and wait for us.
Twenty seven miles, that's all it took. I was there at the stop sign and ready to roll. Though I fell back once again, I was by this time tired. They sure weren't tired though. Up and down the hills they flew. I rolled into the parking lot of the starting location and thanked the nice club member who stayed with me the whole time. Why was I near tears? It was just so hard today. I just want so much to be able to ride with a group in this cold weather and not see the Wolf Pack up there within sight and have to struggle like he** to reach them. But I would never want them to have to sacrifice their fun to slow down for me either.
*Rant Off*

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